The Lord of the Rings The Return of the King Blu-ray Review - www.impulsegamer.com -

Feature 9.5
Video 9.5
Audio 9.5
Special Features 1.0
Total 8.0

Distributor: Roadshow
Running Time: 200 Minutes
Reviewer: Simon Black
Classification
: M15+

8.0


The Lord of the Rings
The Return of the King

The Return of the King (2003), originally titled The War of the Ring by Tolkien, opens with a background into the Gollum character, showing how he came to possess the Ring and how his greed for it eventually destroyed him.  Capturing all the power and poetry of Tolkein’s original vision, this final instalment brings the series to a close in spectacular if not exactly economical fashion.  The film proved an enormous hit with both fans and critics alike, grossing well over a billion dollars worldwide and winning all eleven Academy Awards for which it was nominated, including Best Picture, Costume Design and Visual Effects.  The battle scenes in this concluding chapter are arguably the most expansive and epic of the series, with the siege of Minas Thirith at the hands of the Morgul army incorporating some of the most impressive special effects ever committed to celluloid.  

As anyone who has seen the trilogy will know, all three films are endowed with innumerable visual strengths.  The captivating cinematography and lush, rolling landscapes remain as stunning as ever, from the icily impassable Mount Caradhras to the sweeping grasslands of Rohan.  All this would have been irrelevant without the efforts of a first-rate and supremely cast; of course in this regard Lord of the Rings also fails to disappoint.  The depth of talent is nearly unparalleled, from the smouldering intensity conjured by Viggo Mortensen as Strider to Christopher Lee’s chillingly evil turn as Saruman. The ensemble cast includes the likes of Orlando Bloom, Cate Blanchett, Ian McKellan, Hugo Weaving and Liv Tyler, and all are at the top of their game.  The award-winning Andy Surkis’s voicework as Gollum is likewise highly effective, as are the shrieks and Black Speech of Sauron and his terrifying Ringwraiths.  

That being said, the intervening decade has perhaps been least kind to The Return of the King.  Containing three times as many effects shots as Fellowship, the concluding chapter in the trilogy at times feels a little overburdened with computer wizardry.  Considering the theatrical cut runs almost three and a half hours, it also isn’t the breeziest and fast-paced of affairs.  Nonetheless it concludes the storyline a way that is satisfying, believable and powerful, which after investing so much in the characters and their quest is exactly what the viewer will be hoping for.  The wide battle shots are magnificent, and the 1080p picture quality remains clear and crisp at all times. 

On the audio front the single DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1 ES track is powerful and immersive, with impressive contrast and directionality.  Howard Shore’s score is suitably expansive, and the appearance of Clint Mansell’s extraordinarily powerful ‘Lux Aeterna’ theme lends additional potency to the already epic fight sequences. 

It feels almost miserly to bring it up at this point considering the achievement represented by Lord of the Rings, but the bare-bones release just doesn’t do justice to the material.  The arrival of Lord of the Rings on Blu-ray should have been the Blu-ray event of the year, and a 10/10 score should have been a no-brainer.  Instead it feels a little mercenary on the part of Roadshow, who are once more forcing fans to fork out twice if they want the extended edition or anything at all in the way of bonus features.  Still there is no faulting the quality of the films themselves, and if the extended cuts are released on BD to coincide with Guillermo Del Toro’s rendering of The Hobbit, as has been speculated, the current release could be the only one seen in high-definition for the better part of two years. 






 
 



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